Church personalizes missions for its members
James A. Smith Sr., Baptist Press
December 04, 2009

Church personalizes missions for its members

Church personalizes missions for its members
James A. Smith Sr., Baptist Press
December 04, 2009

NAPLES, Fla. — In what he

hopes will be a “game-changer in terms of the Cooperative Program and our whole

relationship with missions,” Hayes Wicker has led First Baptist Church in

Naples, Fla., to launch the “Great Commission Connection.”

The initiative aims to

personalize missions by linking church members with missionaries and others who

serve the denomination while also boosting support for Southern Baptists’

cooperative missions funding channel.

The project already has

resulted in connecting 507 families in the Naples’ congregation with about

1,500 Southern Baptist missionaries, the Florida Baptist Convention and faculty

members of Southern Baptist seminaries. In the coming weeks, especially as

seasonal members return to Naples, the church anticipates additional families

signing up as well.

The Great Commission

Connection concept asks church families to adopt a “missionary package” that

includes one International Mission Baord missionary, a North American Mission

Board missionary or combat chaplain and either a Florida Baptist Convention

missionary or seminary faculty family. Congregants agree to establish contact

with the three to ask about their prayer needs and be an encouragement to their


Church members also commit

to giving at least an additional $300 per year over their tithe, with some of

them using a “Change the World” piggy bank to collect loose change throughout

the year. The additional funds will complement the church’s budgeted allocation

to the Cooperative Program in hopes it will generate an extra 2 percent giving

from the church through the Cooperative Program.

“In no way is this a

substitute, but is a supplement for Cooperative Program giving,” said Wicker,

pastor of the church since 1992. “And the exciting thing about this is it opens

the doors for us to talk about how to pray for missionaries, how others are

involved in missions that they don’t normally think about — like seminary

professors, Baptist missionaries in our state and others.

“I believe we have the

greatest missions program in history. Our people need to know how wonderful it

is,” Wicker added, noting the strength of the Cooperative Program (CP) is that

it frees missionaries from the need to raise their own support. He said the CP’s

weakness is “facelessness” and “lack of personal contact.”

There is a need in the

congregation, he said, to make First Baptist members more aware of Southern

Baptists’ missionary efforts because many members come from a non-evangelical

background in which they did not learn about the missions mandate, or they come

from independent churches that support missionaries who raise their own



is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness.)